Strictly Country’s List of Top Songs of 2013
Remembering 2013, through music.
By: Gina Kay Singerhouse
(This article was printed in the January / February 2014 issue of Strictly Country Magazine.)
January often finds us reflecting on the previous year. We tend to look back and think of what we have accomplished, what we didn’t accomplish, how much money we don’t have and where we are in our individual lives. The major news broadcasts will take the time to remind us of the major news events that took place, and also remind us of all the famous people we lost.
Rarely do we take the time to reflect on all of the music that was released in the previous year. The only time we do this is while we are watching award shows or reading all the various lists that are released at this time.
Music is the essence of life. Music encourages us, it makes us laugh and cry and it makes us remember the good and the bad events in our lives. Can you imagine a world without music?
On any given year we, at Strictly Country, listen to thousands of songs. Many of these songs are quite boring and contain the same baseline melody as the next song. The music industry went from having great quality songs to quantity songs with no artistry in them.
One of our high priority jobs at Strictly Country; is finding that one high quality, full of artistry and entertaining song so that you do not have to waste your time finding it. That being said, here is Strictly Country’s A to Z list of Top Songs of 2013.
Let’s begin with Kenny Chesney. In 2013, Kenny released his Life On A Rock album. The album featured ten incredible songs. The most popular song on the album was "Pirate Flag." However, we felt that there were two more notable songs instead. The first is "Coconut Tree," a fun song performed as a duet with Willie Nelson. The second is "When I See This Bar," performed in a Caribbean feel this is sure to become a personal anthem for many.
Mark Chesnutt surprised us all when he released his single "When The Lights Go Out (Tracy’s Song)." In this beautiful ballad, Mark gives us a brief glimpse of what type of man he is once you shed the shell of fame.
We were intrigued when we heard a song by Bobby Cyrus featuring Billy Ray Cyrus called "Milkman’s Eyes." This fun, fast paced, traditional song captured our attention enough to feature Bobby Cyrus in the July / August issue. Bobby’s debut album Homeplace features eleven incredible songs. From that album we took "Daddy’s Home," "Milkman’s Eyes" and the title track. However, it was "Send Me Wings" that truly captured our ears and hearts. This powerful ballad speaks about a child who is unwanted by his parents and asks for God’s help to give him wings to fly to heaven.
One of the best well written, artistic and recorded songs that I have ever heard is called "A Seed." Performed by Billy Dean, it was first released in 2010 on an album for Naturipe. In the tail end of 2012, Dean included the song on his Man of Good Fortune album that we featured in the January / February issue in 2013. Out of the ten cuts on this beautiful album we pulled four songs including "A Seed," "Crazy Beautiful," "Imagine What I’d Do," and "Middle of Nowhere."
In May we were introduced to Jackson Delany when he released his debut self entitled EP. The EP featured six songs including "Ugly, Lucky and Me." This beautiful song includes a great storyline, one that many could relate too.
In March we were introduced to a new southern rock band called The Departed when they released their album Adventus. From this fourteen cut album we found "Better Get Right."
On December 14, 2012, we were all shocked when we heard that a gunman went into a school in Newtown, Connecticut, and open fired killing twenty children and adults. We were even more surprised when we heard Andy Griggs perform his tribute "20 Little Angels."
We were first introduced to our next artist when he released his song "Medal of Honor" on a compilation album for BowTech. It was in the September / October issue we featured Lucas Hoge and his self entitled album. From the sixteen cut album we pulled five beautiful songs including "Have I Done Something," "Hope Lives There," "How Was I To Know," "I’ll Meet You There" and the powerful song of gratitude for soldiers in "Medal of Honor."
We were introduced to Randy Houser when we received his How Country Feels album to solicit our votes for the CMAs. From the fifteen cut album, we pulled three including "Along For The Ride," "Route 3 250 D," and "Power of A Song."
We can not praise our next album enough. We were introduced to a genius of a musician when we received the album McGuire’s Landing by Pete Huttlinger. This fifteen cut album mainly features guitar instrumentals with the exception of a few songs that include vocals. The songs are enhanced by a short story written by Pete with the same title. From this incredible album we pull four songs including "Nickel For Your Thoughts," "The Crossing," "Trouble’s A-Brewing" and the title track "McGuire’s Landing."
We were haunted by the next album. When we received George Jones’ album Amazing Grace, we first believed that it was a concept album honoring George. But when we sat down and listen to it, the first song was the title track and we have never heard such a haunted and beautiful version of that song. The album turned out to be Mr. Jones last recording album. After over fifty years in the music industry, George had finally recorded his first Gospel album. The album features twelve beautifully produced Gospel songs. From this album we pulled the title track and "Great Judgment Morning" in which George recorded it several years back with Connie Smith, Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, Ricky Skaggs, Travis Tritt and Marty Stuart.
Toby Keith always surprises us with his music. Of course there have been albums that did not produce any worthy songs, but lately Toby has given us some great music. From his Hope On The Rocks album we pulled three of the ten songs including "Cold Beer Country," "Haven’t Had A Drink All Day" and the title track.
Last Fall we were introduced to an Irish born entertainer by the name of Pete Kennedy when he released his album The Nashville Sessions Volume 2. Pete has one of the most gentle set of vocals and he draws from his Irish heritage to create an unique blend of country music. From his six cut EP we pulled "Love You Anyway."
While the rest of the country was celebrating our nation’s birthday, we were celebrating the music contained on an incredible album entitled Roads Well Traveled released by Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. This eleven cut album is filled to the gills with incredible story songs to the point it was hard for us to pick which ones that would hit this list. We ended up choosing five of the best including "Dobro Joe," "How Do You Say Goodbye To Sixty Years," "I’m That Country," "One Small Miracle," and "Say Hello To Heaven." This is still one incredible album!
We were first introduced to LoCash Cowboys when they released their three song EP back in 2009. We eagerly awaited to hear more from them. Finally in June this past year we received their new self entitled album. The full length album featured twelve very unique songs including the two we pulled, "Best Seat In The House" and "Independent Trucker" with George Jones.
Last year, Richie McDonald returned to the band Lonestar. The result was a beautiful album entitled Life As We Know It. From the twelve cut album we pulled five beautiful songs including "I Miss When," "Just The Rain," "Oh Yeah," "Party All Day" and the incredible song "Pretty Good Day."
In 2013, we saw a lot of concept albums. Most concept albums feature a collection of songs that really don’t belong together and they end up on the ‘other’ list. When Mud Digger came through our office, we felt that it needed to be on the list of Worst Albums of 2013. However, there is one song that belongs on this list. Performed live, Montgomery Gentry’s song "Titty’s Beer" is a fun story song with a comedic theme.
Every once in a while two entertainers come together to create a beautiful sound and tour. After a few shows together, they finally decide to release an album. The result usually is a remarkable album backed by one incredible tour. Case in point "Grits And Glamour" tour that includes two beautiful legends named Lorrie Morgan and Pam Tillis. In 2013, Lorrie and Pam teamed up to produced an incredible album called Dos Divas. The album features fourteen incredible artistic masterpieces. From this album we pulled a fun song with "Bless Their Hearts," a powerful song with "I Am A Woman," and a song full of comedy and fun bantering with "What Was I Thinkin’."
We review so many styles of country music here at Strictly Country. There are so many times we are sent Gospel albums. Many of them feature songs that have been recorded so many times that they have lost their meanings within the recordings. Then we come across Gospel songs that just need to be heard. Case in point the up lifting song "You Be The One" by Point of Grace from their album A Thousand Little Things.
Every year we receive a collection of Christmas albums. We believe music is music, no matter if it’s Country, Bluegrass, Gospel, Southern Rock or Christmas. Just this past Christmas season we were given Restless Heart’s very first Christmas album entitled A Restless Heart Christmas. The album opened with a new song called "Season of Harmony" that set the pace for the entire album. Although most of the songs were remakes of classic Christmas carols, it also featured two new songs that also included a powerful message in "Santa’s Prayer."
Earlier in the year, Restless Heart celebrated their 30th anniversary by releasing a greatest hits album entitled Playlist: The Very Best of Restless Heart. The album featured thirteen of their most popular songs and one new powerful song called "Home."
Throughout 2013 we were introduced to many new artists trying to emerge on to the country music scene. One of those new artists we introduced to you was Rusty Rierson when he released his album Souvenirs. Although Rusty has limited vocal range, he maintains the classic country feel. From his twelve cut album we pulled a powerful song in "The Greater Gift" and the title track.
Many entertainers would love the opportunity to pay tribute to their favorite entertainers. Multi talented musician Don Rigsby took the opportunity to pay tribute to the legendary Dr. Ralph Stanley in his 2013 album Doctor’s Orders: A Tribute To Ralph Stanley. On the album Don re-records some of Dr. Stanley’s most notable songs. Don gains the help from some other notable artists; including Ricky Skaggs, Larry Sparks, Charlie Sizemore, James Alan Shelton, Steve Sparkman and Dr. Ralph Stanley; in this beautiful album. However it was his song "The Mountain Doctor" that earned a position on our list.
Another Christmas album we received this year came from the infamous Robertson Family from the television show Duck Dynasty. The album, Duck The Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas, featured fourteen cuts ranging from classic Christmas carols to more modern songs. Although many of the songs on the album were entertaining, we found that the highlight was a song performed by Phil Robertson with George Strait called "Christmas Cookies."
In the September / October issue we introduced you to Andy Ross, the host of the television show Maximum Archery. In 2013, Andy released his album Cold Dead Hand. This unique album features eleven great songs, most of which are dedicated to a hunting theme. It was Andy’s Southern Rock style that encouraged us to pull two songs from this incredible album. The two songs include "Deal With The Devil," a great song about the music industry, and the title track "Cold Dead Hand," a wonderful song that reminds the listeners of American’s right to bear arms.
Another Christmas album we reviewed last season came from an incredible Gospel group named Sidewalk Prophets. The album, entitled Merry Christmas To You, features twelve beautifully recorded Christmas carols. We were captured by the opening song, "What A Glorious Night," that we continue to play it even here in January because it’s a testament to what the Christmas season is truly about. We also pulled "Hey Moon" off the album.
Every once in a while a local artist will send us their albums. Majority of the time, local artists lack the money and skills to produce a great album. However, last year we introduced you to Chris Silver when he released his album Quiet Fortune. Chris’ album featured ten beautiful cuts, but it was the last song "Hidden Story" that captured our attention.
To us, it seems like, every other year we get bombarded with Christmas albums. This past Christmas we introduced you to Mindy Smith when she released her Christmas EP entitled Snowed In. This EP featured five cuts in which three were her versions of classic Christmas carols. It was the remaining two songs, "Snowed In" and "Tomorrow Is Christmas Day," that captured our hearts.
In 2001, Aaron Tippin released his Christmas album entitled A December To Remember. However, this album did not reach our office until 2013. I wonder if it was being delivered by the pony express? Any way, the album features twelve beautiful songs ranging from traditional Christmas carols to a few new Christmas songs. From this album we pulled "He Said That He Was Jesus" and the title track. It was "A December To Remember" that won the 2014 Spirit Award for Spirit of Christmas.
One of our favorite female Bluegrass artists is Rhonda Vincent. We received a wonderful treat from Rhonda in 2013 when she released her latest project Sunday Mornin’ Singin’ Live! The album features sixteen beautiful Gospel songs, most of which are new, that Rhonda performs live. There were so many beautiful songs on this album, but we narrowed it down and chose three including "Fishers of Men," "God Put A Rainbow In The Clouds," and "Prettiest Flower There." If you have lost your Mother and would love a song to remember her by, then "Prettiest Flower There" is the perfect song for you.
On any given year we receive lots of singles. Many of these singles come from new artists just testing their music out on reviewers and radio stations. In 2013, we received a very powerful song called "Slip On By" by Austin Webb. The song speaks volumes about not letting time slip away from you.
Well there you have it, Strictly Country’s list of Top Songs of 2013. Chances are you have never heard many of the artists and songs on this list. On any given year there are millions of songs released throughout the music industry. Here at Strictly Country, it is our job to seek and find the best songs in recording, artistry, vocals and instrumentals.
But here is the thing, we have one more song. Shortly after Mr. George Jones passed away, many artists were doing their best to pay tribute to the legend. But one entertainer, Sammy Kershaw, went into the studio and recorded "The Route That I Took (My Tribute To George Jones)." This incredible tribute song earned a position on this list and it also claims the 2014 Spirit Award for The Song of The Year Award.
What will 2014 bring? Tune in next year when we release our list of Top Songs of 2014.
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